COVID Vaccines Atrium-1.jpg

In a rollout the likes of which have not been seen in recent memory, vehicles wrapped around Atrium Health Lincoln on Monday as the hospital started mass vaccination of 75+ year old Lincoln County citizens. 

“We’ll be operating seven days a week from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. for as long as it takes,” Teresa Watson, facility executive at Atrium Health Lincoln said. 

All Lincoln County residents can sign up at utilizing an existing account or creating a new one. It is not necessary to be an Atrium patient or to be 75 years or older to sign up at this time. Individuals will be called when they have an appointment scheduled. There is a short form to be filled out. Vaccinations are currently being done pursuant to Phase 1b which includes those individuals who are 75 years old or older.

Phase 1b is being done in three groups. The first group is those 75 years or older regardless of medical condition or living situation. People don’t have to have a chronic health condition. Group 2 includes health care and frontline essential workers who are 50 years of age or older. Group 3 is frontline workers of any age and health care workers of any age, regardless of whether they work directly with COVID-19 patience. 

The Centers for Disease Control defines frontline essential workers as first responders (firefighters, police), education (childcare, teachers, support staff), manufacturing, corrections officers, public transit, grocery store, food and agriculture and U.S. postal workers.

Atrium Health Lincoln is planning on vaccinating 210 people per day, according to Watson. Currently they’re using the Pizer vaccine and they haven’t had any problems with not using up all of the doses in the vials once they’re opened because they maintain a list of people who are anxious to get the vaccine. Doses are being delivered to the hospital daily.

“The system has the vaccines,” she said. “Our challenge has been finding vaccinators we can pull off from in-patient care to do this. We’ve pulled some of our folks who have been working remotely to come and help us. So far, it’s run very smoothly. Our plant engineers have done a very good job laying out the process. We have traffic control and security to make sure everyone stays safe.”

The last time Times-News interviewed Watson was over the summer during a drive-through parade in support of healthcare workers. Things have changed dramatically since then, not necessarily for the better.

“We’re a 101-bed facility and as of today, 85 beds are full and 10 are set aside for OB patients,” she said. “It’s taken a toll on our teammates. The challenge continues to be having the staff to care for the patients in our whole system which is seeing a large influx of patients as well. We have 10 ICU beds and some days we have no beds available. We have some redundancies built into the plan for makeshift ICUs in our operating area for overflow. Our larger system is there to help us but there’s a lot of beds being filled throughout Atrium Health. The other part of this is that age is not a predictor of who’s going to live or who’s going to die. This is not just the flu.”

One of the first individuals to receive the vaccine on Monday was 79-year-old Bud Boyles of Vale. 

“I lost two sisters to COVID,” he said. “My son, grandson and daughter-in-law have had it. We’ve been hit all around. I feel relieved to have been able to get the vaccine.”

George Ross, a member of the quality management team at Atrium was in charge of moving patients through the system and monitoring them once they received the vaccine in case of any reactions.

“We have a good team here,” he said. “Everyone’s got their own piece of the pie and we’re able to put everything together and make it nice and smooth. Healthcare, in general, is really excited to see this vaccine come and it’s definitely a light at the end of the tunnel.”

The Lincoln County Health Department is doing vaccinations as well. People can call in to set up an appointment. If no one answers, Davin Madden, the Lincoln County Health director suggests calling back. Alternatively, a person can physically go to the health department and make an appointment. On Monday, approximately 60 people were vaccinated by the health department. Madden anticipates more than 100 to be vaccinated on Tuesday. Their supply of vaccine is not as reliable as Atrium’s which contributes to scheduling difficulties, according to Madden.

According to the current vaccination schedule, once people in all groups of Phase 1b have been vaccinated, Phase 2 which includes adults at high risk for exposure and at increased risk of severe illness. In this phase, vaccinations will also open in groups.

Group 1 includes anyone ages 65-74 years regardless of medical condition or living situation. 

Group 2 includes anyone 16-64 years with a medical condition that increases risk of severe disease from COVID-19.

Group 3 includes anyone who is incarcerated or living in other close group living settings who has not already vaccinated due to age, medical condition or job function. 

Group 4 is essential workers as defined by the CDC who have not yet been vaccinated.

Phase 3 is for students, college, university and high school students 16 or older.

Younger children will only be vaccinated when the vaccine is approved for them.

Phase 4 includes anyone who wants a COVID-19 vaccine will be able to get one.

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